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Locally-owned restaurants look for #TakeoutTuesday boost as sales plunge under pandemic

Posted at 6:10 AM, Apr 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-07 10:36:58-04

It was a dream years in the making for Ryan Hines and Jay Kulas, dating back to when they met while working at Lunasea at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront: A dream to open their own place.

The dream came true on February 12 when the two opened The Rustic Spoon.

Weekend wait times quickly exceed 90 minutes, Hines tells News 3.

Then the unthinkable happened. Six weeks later, state-mandated stay-at-home orders shut down all dine-in operations to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Hines says business dropped at least 80 percent and he and Kulas had to let go of most of their staff. These two friends, now doing their best to keep the doors open by offering takeout options and delivering food to homes themselves.

"[Keeping] a positive attitude, try and put out the delicious food that we've been known for in the very few, six weeks we've been open prior to this and that's all I can do," Hines said.

He's hoping efforts like #TakeoutTuesday, a weekly online push to get people supporting local restaurants, will help.

"I'm not closing my doors. It's not an option," said Hines.

But it isn't just new restaurants taking a hit.

"Sales have definitely dropped, significantly, but we have great support from our clientele and regulars," said Mike Touhey, who owns The Egg Bistro's three locations in Chesapeake, Virginia Beach and Suffolk.

Touhey says he still has about one-third of his staff working takeout orders and making deliveries. 25 percent of gift card purchases go to help staff who aren't working right now.

"Everybody is trying to get by," he tells News 3.

Getting by means promoting deliveries directly from the restaurant, as opposed to through services like Postmates and Uber Eats.

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Restaurants also have to get creative with food promotions.

Mango Mangeaux, a favorite for French Creole food in Hampton's Phoebus neighborhood, is offering a $10 Breakfast Box and $40 dinners for families of four.

"The transition has been rough for everyone in the area, but besides that we tend to look up," said General Manager Sheldon Jones, who loves the idea of #TakeoutTuesday, but sees support daily from devoted customers. "Always support local. That kind of brings out the best in you. When you can support your own, support your home."

In Norfolk, Cafe Stella customers can still order coffees, baked goods and hot food items, but by law, owner Stella Pomianek can't allow more than ten people inside either of her two locations right now.

Coincidentally, Pomianek just finished a massive remodel that doubled the size of Cafe Stella's Colonial Avenue location.

"If you actually looked at the numbers and sales and, like I said we just did a major remodeling, it can look pretty bleak," said Pomianek.

Pomianek was hoping to hold a grand opening for the remodel on Easter weekend, but that's been postponed.

Instead, she'll sell baked goods outside, in addition to filling orders for families celebrating Easter and Passover at home.

Pomianek tells News 3 she's also offering different homemade meals each weekend, including pierogi and meatloaf. Other than that, she's just trying to stay positive.

"You certainly could kind of not want to get out of the house, but there really isn't anything but to just get through it and think of creative ways we can get food to you," she said. "We're grateful we can still be open, honestly."

Pomianek and the other business owners that spoke to News 3 hope temporary mandates can help stop the spread of COVID-19, but until it's business as usual, efforts like #TakeoutTuesday are greatly appreciated.

"(I) hope for the best and hope we all come out on top. I refuse to go out without a fight," said Hines.

Mango Mangeaux: A Simply Panache Bistro
33 E Mellen St, Hampton, VA 23663
(757) 224-9189

The Rustic Spoon
1658 Pleasure House Rd Suite 101, Virginia Beach, VA 23455
(757) 937-8930

The Egg Bistro
501 Kempsville Rd, Chesapeake, VA 23320
(757) 410-8515

2129 General Booth Blvd, Virginia Beach, VA 23454
(757) 689-6312

5860 Harbour View Blvd, Suffolk, VA 23435
(757) 967-0103

Cafe Stella
1907 Colonial Ave, Norfolk, VA 23517
(757) 625-0461

116 Granby St, Norfolk, VA 23510
(757) 351-6793